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No. 11 Downing Street

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 1 March 2007

5. Which charities held events at No. 11 Downing Street during the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (124165)

No. 11 Downing street is used for official meetings, engagements with external representatives and for charity events. Charities play a critical role in contributing to Government objectives. That is why the Government have backed them so strongly over the past 10 years. A list of the 67 charities that have used No. 11 since 1997 is on the Treasury website.

Will the Minister confirm that one of the so-called charities is the Smith Institute, that it meets monthly there and that often the lights are burning deep into the hours of midnight and beyond as it ponders hard how to brighten up the image of the rather dour Chancellor? Does that not make the Smith Institute a little more of a think-tank and a little less of a charitable institution?

That, of course, is a matter for the Charity Commission. One of the 67 charities is indeed the Smith Institute, but Conservative Members voted last night against legislation extending the role of charities in work with offenders. I hope that they will not compound that mistake by giving the impression today that they oppose charity use of No. 11.

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Therefore, I have made a complaint to the Charity Commission about the Policy Exchange reform—

Ministers are reluctant to answer questions about the Smith Institute. The Financial Secretary took 10 weeks to reply to a question about how many events the Smith Institute held at No. 11 Downing street in one year, and he still will not reveal how many events it has held there since 1997. Is it not time to drop the pretence and recognise that the Smith Institute is nothing more than a cover for the political activities of the Chancellor and his political allies?

No, I do not agree. The questions have been answered and, as I said, the status of the institute is a matter for the Charity Commission. As we have made clear, 10 years ago the Smith Institute said that it would like to use No. 11 Downing street on a monthly basis, and sometimes more frequently, but many other charities have used it as well, so I hope that the Conservatives recognise—

Sixty-seven charities are listed on the Treasury website. I would hope that the hon. Gentleman would support the use of No. 11 Downing street in that way.